Leadership management and command rethinking d day by keith grint

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LEADERSHIP, MANAGEMENT AND COMMAND RETHINKING D-DAY Keith Grint LEADERSHIP, MANAGEMENT AND COMMAND: RETHINKING D-DAY Also by Keith Grint and published by Palgrave Macmillan Leadership (0–333–96387–3) LEADERSHIP, MANAGEMENT and COMMAND R E T H I N K I N G D - D AY KEITH GRINT © Keith Grint 2008 All rights reserved No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4LP Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages The author has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 First published 2008 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS and 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10010 Companies and representatives throughout the world PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St Martin’s Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd Macmillan® is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries ISBN-13: 978–0–230–54317–1 ISBN-10: 0–230–54317–0 This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources Logging, pulping and manufacturing processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress 10 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 Printed and bound in Great Britain by Cromwell Press Ltd, Trowbridge, Wiltshire 10 09 08 Contents List of Figures, Maps and Photos Acknowledgements Part One Leadership, Management and Command at D-Day Problems, Understanding and Decision-Making Part Two Leadership and Wicked Problems Western Allied Strategy: the Boxer and the Karateka Allied Air Strategy Planning to Mislead German Strategy: Hard Shell, Soft Shell Allied Ground Strategy Part Three Managing Tame Problems Mobilizing the Anglo-Canadians, the Commonwealth, and the Volunteers Mobilizing the Americans: Technology and the Iceberg Mobilizing the Germans: the Wehrmacht and the SS 10 Managing Logistics: ‘Bag, vomit, one.’ 11 Technologies Part Four Commanding in Crises 12 Commanding 13 The Airborne Assaults 14 The Amphibious Landings Part Five Retrospective 15 Post-D-Day vi viii 19 23 59 80 116 135 151 153 181 211 234 264 305 307 322 350 415 417 Notes 429 Bibliography 484 Index 493 v List of Figures, Maps and Photos Figures 1.1 Typology of problems, power and authority 2.1 Weather forecast for June 1944 4.1 Divisions of the 15th Army sector, Calais region 107 6.1 Invasion Plan H Hour Plus, Omaha Beach, 116th RCT 139 6.2 Omaha Beach, cross section 141 6.3 Comparison of German tanks facing US and UK forces, 15 June–25 July 10.1 16 58 1944 145 Distribution of German Divisions, 1944 235 Maps 6.1 Arromanches Artificial Port (Mulberry B) 6.2 Development of the lodgment: 21st Army Group forecast of operations as 136 of 26 February 1944 140 13.1 Allied assault routes, June 1944 324 13.2 101st Airborne Division drop pattern, June 1944 334 14.1 Sketch map of military advance, 6–30 June 1944 352 Photos 3.1 Gun emplacement at Longues Battery 3.2 Observation post at Longues Battery 74 74 3.3 Longues Battery from the west 75 4.1 Ruskin Rooms, Knutsford, Cheshire 6.1 Bluffs opposite Dog White, Omaha Beach 85 142 6.2 Typical road in the bocage, near Balleroy 146 10.1 Beach-hardening mat, Lepe, Hampshire 245 10.2 View over Arromanches from St Côme 251 vi LIST OF FIGURES, MAPS AND PHOTOS vii 10.3 Remains of floating harbour at Arromanches 251 11.1 Anti-tank ‘hedgehog’ 265 11.2 AVRE Spigot 270 11.3 Churchill Tank 281 11.4 Sherman Firefly Tank 283 11.5 Sherman M4 Tank 284 13.1 Bridge over Merderet River at La Fière 331 13.2 St John’s Bridge, Lechlade, site of Exercise Mush by 6th Airborne in preparation for assault on Pegasus Bridge 337 14.1 ‘True Glory’ House, D-Day 1944 363 14.2 ‘True Glory’ House today 363 14.3 Utah Beach, near Exit 374 14.4 Pointe du Hoc, gun emplacement 377 14.5 Looking east from Pointe du Hoc along Baker Sector 377 14.6 Pointe du Hoc, shattered gun emplacement 378 14.7 Pointe du Hoc from west showing Rangers Memorial 380 14.8 Looking west from WN-71 onto Dog Green at Vierville 394 14.9 29th Division monument built into WN-71 at junction of Charlie and Dog Green 397 14.10 Leaderless American troops under the cliffs at Colleville sur Mer 398 14.11 Exit E-1, Omaha Beach, looking south 403 14.12 WN-64, Exit E-1, Omaha Beach 404 14.13 Exit E-1, overlooking WN-64 from the north 404 15.1 American cemetery at St Laurent 418 15.2 British cemetery at Bayeux 420 15.3 German cemetery at La Cambe 423 15.4 Easy Red, Omaha Beach, from the American cemetery 428 Acknowledgements This book has been in the making for over eight years It began life as the final chapter to one of my previous books, The Arts of Leadership, but, like Topsy, it just grew It has sat on various floors and computers half finished for about five of these years and only recently have I managed to find the time and motivation to finish it – thanks to Stephen Rutt for providing the last piece of the jigsaw Many people have helped me in this marathon journey Institutionally I would like to thank the ESRC, Templeton College and the Saïd Business School at Oxford University, Lancaster University, and Cranfield University at the Defence Academy of the UK Individually I would like to thank Mike Harper for many conversations about D-Day and his old unit; Hal Nelson for showing me round Normandy the first time; whoever the German train guard was that arrested me in 1971 in Germany for not having the appropriate papers and whose stories of his capture on D-Day by the British passed the small hours of the night away waiting for the next train; Sapper Anderson for his marvellous conversations, memories and letters about D-Day+2 when he arrived there; Connie Woolgar for alerting me to the role of the German-speaking British Commandos on D-Day; David Benest and Peter Gray at the Defence Academy for trying to put me straight on the military road to D-Day; Tara Moran for helping select the cover and keeping me organized; the many recipients of my various witterings over the years; Katy for providing the music via Past Perfect; Richie for advice on small arms; and finally Sandra, Beki, Simon and Kris for putting up with yet another holiday built around a book – sorry guys and gals! I would like to thank HMSO for permission to reproduce the maps viii 296 M A N A G I N G TA M E P R O B L E M S rather than Pershings But in the initial phase of the assault there was never any possibility of deploying the official doctrine – how could tanks not engage other tanks – or worse, gun emplacements? Without the extra armour provided by Hobart’s Funnies on the Anglo-Canadian beaches they too would have suffered much higher casualties And had the Utah forces landed on the correct beach, and not fortuitously against the weakest part of the entire beach, casualties there would have been much higher too In sum, the doctrine was flawed and the assault phase was tragically inadequate to the task However, the one thing where the US had a significant advantage over the Germans was in its production capacity – providing it could produce tanks more quickly than the Germans could destroy them In short, the Tame response to the problem did eventually manage to overcome the problem but at considerably higher cost than necessary Anyway, should not the weaknesses of the Allied tanks on D-Day and in the first stage of the invasion in Normandy have been more than compensated for by their grossly superior naval gunfire and air bombardment support? 11.6 Naval gunfire and air bombardment In theory the significance of competing tank and gun performances should have been of marginal significance because the naval and air bombardment was to have been so great that few, if any, of the defenders would be either alive or sufficiently conscious to have fired upon the attackers This theory bore a remarkable resemblance to the theories developed by General Haig as to the guaranteed success of his offensives in the First World War and was probably about as realistic Yet, ironically, the planners for D-Day assumed a casualty rate that implied the initial bombardment would not succeed in silencing the defenders of the Atlantic Wall At 0520 that aerial bombardment began, and at 0535 the German coastal batteries began firing upon the shipping – much to the relief of the warships who were forced to hold their fire until 0550 unless fired on to avoid hitting the aircraft In fact at least two Allied aircraft were shot down by ‘friendly fire’ from the warships Some of the shells from the largest ships were enormous HMS Rodney, for example, had nine 16inch guns firing and prompted one of Howard’s soldiers at Pegasus Bridge to exclaim: ‘Blimey, sir, they’re firing jeeps’.120 Jeeps they may have been and accurate they often were, but even the enormous naval guns generally failed to destroy many of the German casements, so strong were the protective encasements of steel and concrete As TECHNOLOGIES 297 Ambrose concludes: ‘From the point of view of the soldiers going ashore, the great naval bombardment was as ineffective as the great air bombardment’.121 Dieter Hartmann-Schultze was an anti-tank gunner with the German 711th Infantry Division on Sword Beach and found himself bombarded for an hour by the armada of naval ships off the cost at first light When the bombardment finished he emerged from his shelter and ‘found to our amazement that only one gun had been damaged, even though a huge number of shells and bombs from planes had fallen about us’.122 Hans Ulrich Hanter, of the neighbouring 716th Infantry Division also emerged to find that ‘although some positions were destroyed, many remained virtually undamaged, strangely enough.123 This was hardly a novel experience, at least for the British – almost every failed offensive in the First World War had failed because of an inadequate artillery bombardment and a failure to understand the strength of German fortifications.124 Indeed, the experience of the US forces in the Pacific theatre had long suggested that naval and aerial bombardment was inadequate to completely destroy coastal fortifications However limited was the effect of the naval bombardment even fewer of the fortifications had been destroyed by the pre-invasion air bombing The official diary of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles assaulting Juno Beach notes that at 0900: ‘The bombardment … failed to kill a single German or silence one weapon …’125 It certainly did not knockout the heavy battery at Mont Fleury firing on Juno Beach Actually, the defenders assumed the smoke and the absence of direct attacks upon them implied that a landing was, or perhaps would be, occurring elsewhere on the coast Even when the far more accurate naval bombardment persuaded the defenders that an invasion was planned for them the effect appeared marginal: only around 14 per cent of the bunkers were destroyed Nevertheless, the shock of the bombardment left many defenders disoriented and prevented some the inland batteries from firing accurately since their ‘spotters’ were now amongst the quivering defenders.126 Despite all this, 90 of the 306 landing craft destined for Juno Beach failed to get there, as did half the DD tanks and 85 per cent of the Royal Marine Centaur tanks, mainly destroyed by mines or the very artillery that was supposed to have been silenced.127 Even the tanks that did make the beach were not necessarily welcomed by the invading troops: Captain Daniel Flunder blew the track off one of his own tanks when it began crushing his troops in front of it as it progressed up the beach and refused to stop.128 But blundering and inadequate Shermans were just one of the problems facing the Allies, another was their other weapons 298 M A N A G I N G TA M E P R O B L E M S 11.7 Other weapons and support systems In fact, just as the Sherman’s successes were deeply rooted in the support services that followed them, so the critical advantage that the Allied armies (as opposed to air forces or navies) had over their German counterparts tended to be in the more mundane spheres of logistics rather than conventional gunnery For example, each American infantry division was accompanied by a field artillery battalion comprising approximately a dozen howitzers and 100 soldiers This was not remarkably different from its German counterpart – but the latter had usually to rely upon horse drawn transport for munitions, while the American battalion could rely upon a two and half ton truck (‘deuce and a half’) and trailer for each gun, and another 100 plus vehicles of various kinds to ensure that neither running out of ammunition nor mobility was usually a problem (except in the early part of the European campaign) In the German static battalions, such as those attached to the 716th Division there was no motorized transport and no horse drawn transport either.129 Despite this, the basic field artillery guns of the Allies, the British 25pounder and the American 105-mm, had very limited impact upon troops that were dug in, even in conventional slit trenches in the earth Most of the evidence suggested that a conventional shell (that is not an ‘air-burst’ exploding in the air before impact) had to land within a metre of an adequately dug-in position to transmit a shock wave sufficient to kill or disable the occupant.130 Most of the European conflict was fought using time-fire fuses that could be adjusted before firing to explode at a predicted time after firing Achieving an airburst over infantry required sighting of the explosion but a proximity, VT or pozit, fuse existed amongst the Allies’ arsenal which carried a battery powered radar system that ensured an explosion at a preset height above the ground The pozit fuse had been used in the Pacific war by the US navy for two years before it found its way to the European land war and it was first used in the counter-attack against German forces in Houffalize on January 1945.131 Allied commanders were always concerned less the Germans should manage to secure and copy proximity fused munitions and Spaatz certainly thought that German flak units had used them in the Autumn of 1944 when Allied air losses suddenly increased.132 A cheaper and unofficial alternative was to delay the explosion of a conventional 75mm high explosive shell by turning the ‘delay’ screw with a sixpence or screwdriver The shell was then fired into the ground a little way in front of the target and it would ricochet about ten feet above the ground over the target before exploding.133 The most frightening weapon for most Allied infantrymen in the ETO TECHNOLOGIES 299 seems to relate to the noise rather than the lethality of the weapon For example, the wailing of Stuka bombers and the screaming of the ‘Moaning Minnies’ (Nebelwerfer),134 – multiple-barrelled mortars whose wailing sounds in flight generated very high levels of anxiety amongst Allied troops In fact, one of the ways that veterans managed to survive unscathed longer than replacement troops was the ability they developed to distinguish between the sounds of different incoming shells Some shells, however, were literally inaudible to those they were about to hit For example, the German 88mm shell, in a flat trajectory, travelled about 300 yards ahead of its sound Or, as one British veteran explained to his new troops in Normandy: ‘The shell explodes, you hear it coming, and only then you here the report as it’s fired’.135 The ability to distinguish such sounds also told the listener whether the weapon was German or Allied and the direction from which it was fired.136 In terms of lethality even machine guns were being displaced in the Second World War by artillery of some form as the primary cause of injury or death, and one survey suggested that less than a quarter were killed or wounded by a bullet.137 In fact, at the level of machine guns the Allied weapons were markedly inferior: the American Browning Automatic Rifles fired between 300 and 600 rounds per minute depending on the model from a 20 cartridge box magazine The British Bren gun, based on a Czech ZB 26 design, fired 500 rounds per minute from a 30 cartridge magazine, while the German MG-42 Spandau fired at 1,200 RPM from a 50-round belt.138 Allied soldiers frequently referred to the German MG-42 as sounding like cloth being torn, so quick was the rate of fire, whereas their own guns ‘chattered’ Not only was the firing rate so much faster, the MGs seldom seemed to run out of ammunition – primarily because many ordinary infantry soldiers carried spare boxes of MG ammunition.139 Such a firing rate did tend to overheat the barrel of the MG-42 quickly and this led to the bullets spinning wildly as they emerged from the barrel – but being hit by a vertical bullet was still lethal The consequence of the accuracy, range and rate of fire of German machine guns was that a single MG42 could effectively cover around 300 yards of beach from a position on the bluffs above Omaha.140 So why didn’t the Allies develop similar weapons? Once again the question is best answered by reference to cultural considerations – in this instance because the Allies’ infantry doctrine was wedded to the notion of mobility rather than firepower, and since machine-guns were heavier weapons than rifles, and required some riflemen to carry ammunition rather than a rifle, the mobility of units armed with machine was clearly hampered by the presence of machine guns.141 Indeed, British infantry sections comprised just eight soldiers – one Bren 300 M A N A G I N G TA M E P R O B L E M S gunner and seven riflemen; by comparison the smallest German section involved 13 men, providing them with sufficient firepower to act independently of any supporting section, unlike the British section.142 It is ironic, then, that what usually hampered the mobility of Allied soldiers was the presence not the absence of machine guns, in most cases German machine guns At the level of ordinary infantry rifles both the Germans and the British used bolt action weapons which required the user to fire one round at a time and to pull back the bolt to reload the next bullet from the magazine The American standard rifle was the M1 Garand, a semiautomatic weapon that would fire a bullet from the eight-round magazine each time the trigger was pressed until all eight had been fired, at which point the cartridge clip was itself ejected Some troops carried the lighter M1 carbine which fired smaller calibre ammunition and had half the range of the Garand The M1 Garand was generally held to be the best infantry rifle of the war, but it was not without its critics or competitors.143 Life magazine, a supporter of the rival Johnson rifle, insisted that ‘it would be tragically dangerous to go to war with the Garand’.144 Official US Army manuals suggested – again before the war – that the rate of fire of a rifle squad (11 soldiers) armed with M1s was so great that enemy troops would not be able to keep their heads out of their foxholes for more than an instant.145 This was ironic given the fire power that the comparative troops could generate, simply because the average German unit had so many more machine guns than the average American (or even Anglo-Canadian) unit – a lesson that only the Germans, apparently, had learned from the First World War For example, the rate of fire per minute from an M1 Garand was 32, and from the Carbine version 40 This was, indeed, much faster than the German Mauser – originally used in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1 – at just 15 But the firing rates of the submachine guns of both sides reversed the advantage: the German MP 40 firing rate was 200 rounds per minute (RPM) and the American Thompson was 100 RPM (the American BAR was 500 RPM) At the machine gun level the difference was even greater: the US Browning could manage 500–525 RPM depending on the model, but the MG 42 could spew out 1,200 RPM This difference was compounded by the number of troops carrying automatic weapons For instance, of the 14,281 soldiers of the US 29th Infantry Division who landed on Omaha, 11, 706 carried rifles, 93 carried Thompsons, 143 BARs, and 157 carried Browning machine guns That equated to a combined theoretical small arms fire power of 677,540 RPM (assuming – generously – that all the rifles were the faster firing carbines) Against them the 13,027 soldiers of the German 352nd Infantry Division, carried 9,569 rifles, 1,592 MP 40 TECHNOLOGIES 301 submachine guns and 718 MG42 machine guns That equated to a combined theoretical firepower of 1,323,535 RPM In other words, the small arms fire power of an average German infantry division was almost twice that of its larger American counterpart The equivalent firepower of the 15,976 members of the German 3rd Parachute Division was even greater at 2,082,535 – that is, over three times greater than the average American infantry division.146 In short, in terms of small arms fire the American forces were quite simply outgunned, and their British allies even more so Fortunately for the Americans facing them, the German 3rd Parachute Division only had 70 per cent of its allotted weapons on D-Day – but even then it remained better armed It is hardly surprising, then, that the Allied infantry so frequently went to ground and called for artillery support when under fire from German positions – they were simply outgunned McManus is scathing about the assumption – rooted in Marshall’s (1947) early post war writing – that the ordinary infantry soldier was reluctant to fire unless armed with a fully automatic weapon.147 McManus suggests the ‘myth’ of the ‘ratio of fire’ theory was never based in any form of evidence and was quite contrary to the truth On the other hand, there does seem to have been an ‘unwritten soldiers’ maxim: ‘if you shoot at them, they will shoot at you’ That may explain some of the reluctance of the Allied troops to fire: since the German machine guns were superior to the Allies in both quantity and quality, to fire upon a German position was to bring down upon the head of the initial shooter an avalanche of return fire Equally important, American gunpowder produced a blue flash and smoke – providing the Germans – who used smokeless and flashless powder – with an excellent way of spotting them.148 Thus, unless the initial shooter was certain of eliminating the target, or generating a heavier firepower, it was not always sensible to open fire.149 The consequence was that for all that US manuals spoke of ‘winning battles through dominant fire-power’, neither the infantry nor the tanks, could match their German counterparts and they had to rely upon artillery or aerial supporting fire to even up the odds It was not, then, that Allied infantry were unusually reluctant to advance without fire support – their planners had left them with almost no choice Moreover, even though the Allied infantry was far more mechanized that the German equivalent and the M-15 and M-16 half tracks provided an armoured assault unit that the opposition could never match, the selfevident superiority of German tanks and German infantry weapons began gnawing away at the Allies’ confidence that the material power of the US would guarantee victory.150 Admittedly the sky was often empty of the Luftwaffe and most Allied troops did not meet large numbers of Panthers 302 M A N A G I N G TA M E P R O B L E M S or Tigers Indeed, at least one member of the 116th Infantry Regiment’s anti-tank company who landed in Normandy and fought right through to May 1945 never saw a German tank.151 But ‘Tigerphobia’ – the assumption that every German tank was a Tiger, and thus unstoppable, was common.152 Fortunately, the superior development of field communications on the Allied side ensured that immobilized infantry could call down artillery or aerial bombardments with relative ease Using either the hand held six pound SCR-536 (Signal Corps Radio) Walkie-Talkie sets with a range of a mile or less, or the back packed SCR-300 weighing 32 pounds with a range up to five miles, these FM (Frequency Modulation – static-free) line-of-sight radios were god-sends to under-gunned infantry units Each rifle company carried six walkie-talkies or carried miles of telephone cable for phone connections back to their HQs However, there was a price to pay for this – and it was the ability of the Germans to eavesdrop on US radio communications that cost a considerable number of Allied lives Nonetheless, within 48 hours of H-Hour, two submarine cables had been laid from the command ships off shore to the shore-based units Most of the Forward Observations Officers (FOOs) spotting for artillery on land used High Frequency devices but the multi-channel Very High Frequency radios – which were less susceptible to atmospheric conditions – had just been developed and some were deployed with the invasion forces, along with civilian technical support By June a line of sight connection had been established between Omaha Beach and a watch tower on the Isle of Wight (originally used to watch for the Spanish Armada) and this allowed aerial photographs to be developed in England and transmitted by radio facsimile to Normandy for rapid assessment and decision-making To that effect, once a photo plane had landed in Britain and its film had been developed, the results could be at Omaha Beach within seven minutes That basically provided an hour by hour update on the state of German defences and troop movements In contrast German field communications, which had been dependent upon the new 1,000 mile underground cable along the French coast, were quickly reduced to using the outdated and frequently sabotaged French telephone system, and the Wehrmacht’s own mobile radio system These vehicles became a primary target for the Allied fighter-bombers in Normandy: both von Schweppenburg’s and Sepp Dietrich’s units lost 75 per cent of their radio vans in the first few days of the invasion, making co-ordinated counter-attacks difficult, and cutting off the beach head from the Cotentin peninsular That also necessitated German commanders physically moving between areas to co-ordinate developments, and the inevitable result was a greater exposure to Allied air attack: both Rommel TECHNOLOGIES 303 and Marcks were attacked in this manner and the loss of both these commanders severely inhibited the ability of the German army to respond.153 11.8 Conclusion It is often assumed that D-Day was successful because the preponderance of Allied technology made such a victory inevitable or because a series of lucky breaks undermined the German defences and facilitated the Allied attack Certainly many Allied soldiers seemed to have felt an enormous confidence in the veritable cornucopia of technology Surely no-one could resist the Arsenal of Democracy? But this optimism was premised upon a conventional notion of US material superiority and an inordinate and naïve faith in the utility of machines to tame the opposition This chapter, however, has suggested that the material strength of the Allies was far from self-evident once the technology was deployed in the water or on the ground Just a few examples will re-illustrate the problems that the scientists, technologists and above all, military leaders, left the Allied soldiers to deal with in Normandy First, the landing craft that the initial assault waves landed in were simply inadequate to the task This was already obvious from the Pacific assaults and, in that theatre of war, a partial solution – the Amtrac – had already been deployed to resolve it Only two Amtracs were available for D-Day off Normandy and the consequence was a litany of death on Omaha Moreover, subordinate officers had appealed to the commanders to reconsider the issue but had been overruled by leaders who should have known better Second, the Pacific war – to say nothing of the entire First World War – had also demonstrated that naval and aerial bombardment of reinforced defensive positions was unlikely to succeed, either in destroying the defenders or even undermining their ability to resist Third, the Funnies that so ably assisted the British and Canadians on the eastern beaches were noticeably absent from the American beaches – as are reasons for their absence The consequence of this tragic oversight by Bradley was the bodies littering Omaha on D-Day Fourth, the tanks that were to lead the charge through the German defences and strike terror into the heart of the defenders, instead struck terror into the hearts of the users and form a considerable part of the explanation for the Normandy stalemate Worse, the poverty of Allied tank design – and British tank designs were worse than US tank designs in the main – was all so unnecessary A tank capable of withstanding the attacks of the Tigers and Panthers in Normandy was available and could have been 304 M A N A G I N G TA M E P R O B L E M S usefully deployed across the beaches on D-Day to deal with the German emplacements But, thanks to doctrinal cultures, and Patton’s disastrous decision-making, the Pershing did not arrive in Europe until the war was almost over Fifth, the inadequacy of Allied automatic small arms, especially in numbers, left troops immensely vulnerable to equivalent sized German units Once again, someone had failed to learn the lesson of the last war and had conflated mobility with light weapons Paradoxically, where lightness was critical – for the initial assaulting infantry – the Allies seem to have reversed their initial logic and weighed them down so much that many could hardly move and many drowned in the tide, pulled under by three days of rations on a day when the majority of survivors did not even eat In sum, the three main problems: getting to the beach, getting across the beach, and getting off the beach, were all resolvable – had various leaders made appropriate decisions – but only in small sections did the solutions arrive And in each of the cases where errors were made, it is a cultural explanation that provides the better understanding of Leadership decisions than a contingent rational approach Treating problems as Tame rather than as Wicked, and assuming that superordinates always knew best doomed many soldiers to unnecessary deaths or injuries Sometimes, as in the provision of a breakwater for the floating harbour, the subordinate’s case succeeded, but more often than not the subordinate was over-ruled and dire consequences usually followed Fortunately for the Allies, they had sufficient superiority elsewhere, notably in the airforces, the navies and the artillery, to compensate for these Leadership errors Part Four Commanding in Crises Introduction If the primary Wicked Problem for the political and military leaders of the Allies on D-Day was where and when to invade, and the Tame Problem was how to build and supply sufficient matériel to get the troops to the beach, what happened when the troops actually got to the beaches or dropped out of the planes? At this point it is worth reconsidering the third category of decision-maker – the Commander As suggested in Chapter 1, Commanders operate when a self-evident crisis occurs and there is general uncertainty – though not ostensibly in the head of the Commander who provides an ‘answer’ to the crisis There is no time for discussion or dissent or worrying about Management ‘procedures’ if they delay resolution, and thus a crisis legitimizes coercion as necessary in the circumstances for public good Of course, if the Management of Tame Problems has been successful then few crises will actually occur, but in war there are always likely to be crises So how good were the commanders and how could Command be instilled into the commanders? In what follows I compare the way this developed for the three primary groups involved: Anglo-Canadians, Americans and Germans But first let us consider the theoretical role of the commander in general 305 This page intentionally left blank 12 Commanding 12.1 Commanding soldiers to kill The capacity of soldiers to kill on order and to remain doing so has always proved troublesome for higher command, because an army may be ‘a dumb beast which kills when it is set down but its soldiers also feel pain’.1 Looking back at D-Day one quote always comes to mind: ‘A rational army would run away’.2 Yet, by and large, armies not act in this way and certainly the vast majority of all troops involved on both sides carried out their duties on D-Day Keegan3 suggests several other reasons why, in the main, most soldiers not run away, despite the danger involved in staying put in a crisis: • coercion – the fear of something worse happening if you run away, usually via your own military police, quite possibly resulting in your execution and definitely resulting in your enduring shame • inducement – the rewards of success in battle, be they looting or prize money or simply survival • narcosis – the use of chemical stimulant, notably alcohol to suppress fear • mimicry – the copying of heroes, leaders or even enemies in an attempt to redefine oneself • frenzy – the blood letting that can and does occur when emotional balance is unsettled by particular events, originally associated with Nordic berserkers • stardom – the desire to perform on a battlefield to be the envy of the onlookers and finally, • honour Of all these reasons the coercion of discipline is often the one most commonly considered Military discipline is usually the most compelling available: after all, what commanders require their subordinates to is often perceived by those subordinates as suicidal, hence the coercive disciplinary system But battles are often amongst the most indeterminate activities, and although they may appear to require a functional 307 308 COMMANDING IN CRISES discipline amongst massed ranks of soldiers to cope with this, in fact, the chaos of battle ironically requires the radical deployment of initiative – relatively unconstrained by any notion of hierarchical discipline It is the resolution of this paradox that defines the better performance in battle – and distinguishes most German units from most Allied units Nonetheless coercion was most certainly available to the commanders of all sides in compelling their subordinates to stay put Stanley Whitehouse experienced this when digging in off Sword Beach and told to expect an imminent German counter-attack: ‘We were startled by a big brawny military police officer who crouched along side us “Orders are – there is to be no Dunkirk this time … You must stay here and fight it out My men are between you and the beaches, with orders to shoot anyone leaving his post OK?”4 Though there are no records of anyone being shot by the British military police in this way – and in this case the attack never came – it is unlikely that such an ‘execution’ would be recorded should a crisis have developed and the military stepped in to prevent another Dunkirk It is also worth pointing out the desire of many subordinates to fight for commanders – at any level – whom they regarded as being able to maximize their chances of survival by their personal reputations as efficient and effective commanders For Whitehouse, Corporal Smith, ‘was the epitome of an infantry NCO … he led from the front, yelling and cursing, waving his Tommy gun, and shooting and coshing everyone in sight I heard other squaddies say: “I wish I could get in Smudger’s section He’s a useful bloke and would look after you” ’.5 In the Wehrmacht on the Russian front, Private Sajer had parallel thoughts as his company commander spoke to his comrades: ‘I would burn and destroy entire villages if by doing so I could prevent even one of us from dying of hunger … We are trying to change the world, hoping to revive the ancient virtues buried under the layers of filth bequeathed to us by our forbears … life is war, and war is life Liberty doesn’t exist’ Upon hearing this, Sajer reports, ‘we loved him and felt we had a true leader, as well as a friend on whom we could count’.6 Similar sentiments were sometimes developed about Allied field officers (very seldom about staff officers who seldom ‘strayed’ into the front line) For example, Private Albert J King from the 1st Worcesters served with the 43rd Infantry Division, and his company was commanded by Major Grubb When a group of replacements arrived in France, King overhead one of them question his colleagues about Major Grubb’s sanity The reply reproduced that same bonding that Whitehouse witnessed: ‘Grubby? He is mad, mad as an effing hatter, but his company will follow him anywhere If you’re not prepared to that, piss off to COMMANDING 309 some other company’.7 Grubb was surprised by some of his own reactions to battle: It may now seem rather an incomprehensible thing to say, but it [fighting] could be great fun What was really tiresome was when the shells came, then you had no chance … but a little gentleman’s war was a great deal of fun … You really were, you became a little elated, unbalanced even On reflection it appears odd that you could enjoy such a thing, but it is an example of an extraordinary reaction of the body that I think is largely due to the generation of adrenaline In moments of intense danger, one became elated to such an extent that it bordered on insanity.8 Grubb was eventually sent back to Britain to run a Battle School and leaders like him rapidly became thin on the ground, causing considerable problems for senior commanders Lt Colonel Hart Dyke, of the Hallamshires, the British 49th (Polar Bear) Division, regarded himself as: Fortunate to have so many men with the stuff of leadership in them They were like rafts to which all the rest clung for support It was these men, the pre-war territorial nucleus of our battalion – the Hallamshires – who provided the warrant and non-commissioned officers with the exception of course of the officers … It was now getting most difficult to find men to accept the added responsibility and danger of leadership There was little to offer in return for what one asked of them Rank and money meant little these days A dozen times they had escaped improbably Long ago the few surviving men in the rifle companies had been bound to realize the odds against them remaining unharmed But the honour and good name of the battalion meant much to them.9 This respect for commanders who took a positive interest in their subordinates seems to have been universal but rarely extended higher than a captain, for as one US soldier proclaimed: ‘A lot of guys don’t even know the name of their regimental commander’.10 And in an army where ‘unearned’ respect for hierarchy was almost always subordinated to ‘earned’ respect for what was regarded as inspirational Command, war was not something that necessarily engendered a positive regard for the officer corps Clearly, not everyone involved in the fighting was driven by an ideological desire to fulfil their commander’s desires, and there were probably few on the Allied side that were politically motivated and fought specifically to rid the world of fascism There were, however, many committed troops on both sides, especially the German SS units, and there were also many that were turned into inveterate haters of the enemy by witnessing the deaths or injuries inflicted upon their close friends and colleagues.11 310 COMMANDING IN CRISES But the popular assumption that war is only possible because of effectively coercive disciplinary systems runs contrary to the evidence which suggests that many (though by no means all) soldiers ‘enjoy’ some or several aspects of combat Grey suggests that three reasons predominate in trying to explain what might be called ‘the irrational commitment to stay’: the spectacle, the comradeship and the destruction.12 Since all three provide ‘attractions’ that are seldom found outside war, at least not together, war embodies a magnet that holds soldiers to its chest in a literal death grip For many combatants on D-Day the spectacle of the vast armada of ships and the realization that history was unfolding before their very eyes was incredibly powerful ‘Looking back on Normandy,’ recalled Stan Leech, a beach signaller, ‘the impression which remains is how interesting everything was, not how frightening I’m no braver or more cowardly than anyone else, but I was so caught up in the excitement of it all Everything was new’.13 But there were probably many more that fought on because they felt it their duty to those with whom they had trained and fought Stanley Whitehouse, for example, remembers that: Luckily the old Bucks Battalion platoon that had been together for more than two years remained virtually intact, which was a tremendous fillip … They were all trusted mates who could be relied on when we were in a tight spot A platoon is like a large family of about forty men, living, eating and sleeping together for month after month They laugh and cry over shared experiences, get drunk together and fight the common enemy Is it any wonder then that such powerful bonds are forged between them, bonds stronger than even those between blood brothers? Truly they are ready to die for each other – and sometimes – and when a member of the ‘family’ is killed or maimed the rest feel a deep anguish and express a blind hatred for the perpetrators.14 Hitler’s own Weltanschauung or ‘worldview’ was, to some extent rooted in his fond memories of the trenches in the First World War and, as shall become clear, there are several examples of soldiers joining and remaining in an army because they manifestly enjoy killing without necessarily exhibiting the characteristics associated with berserks.15 This is hardly a novel idea; historically many societies have been framed around warrior cultures that glorified war and Hitler’s leadership was certainly premised on this philosophy: exploiting the solidarity of soldiers And we need only return to the last hour of the First World War – when the armistice due at 1100 was common knowledge – to see both sides engaging in militarily ‘unnecessary’ deaths Many of the Allied gunners fired right up until 1059 (though Captain Harry Truman stopped his shelling .. .LEADERSHIP, MANAGEMENT AND COMMAND RETHINKING D- DAY Keith Grint LEADERSHIP, MANAGEMENT AND COMMAND: RETHINKING D- DAY Also by Keith Grint and published by Palgrave Macmillan Leadership. .. Figures, Maps and Photos Acknowledgements Part One Leadership, Management and Command at D- Day Problems, Understanding and Decision-Making Part Two Leadership and Wicked Problems Western Allied Strategy:... where Leadership, Management and Command occur and I suggest that the way the combatants approached these problems, and the way they had learned to address them, holds the P R O B L E M S , U N D
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